Although Comte Moïse de Camondo wanted to recreate an eighteenth-century residence, the mansion built from 1911 to 1913 by the architect René Sergent was surpisingly modern. It was fitted with all the latest conveniences in terms of efficient service and everyday comfort: a heating system with warm, filtered air; compressed air elevators, a vacuum cleaning system; cove lighting; hygienic bathrooms. Study of the house’s archives and observation of the elements still in place tells us about the original work, and also about the changes made over the twenty-year period until the count’s death in 1935.

Sergent kept the courtyard and garden layout of the former mansion on rue de Monceau, together with the outbuildings, which he reorganized. Stables on one side sheltered the saddle horses that were used for riding in the woods; on the other side, an outhouse where horse-drawn carriages used to be kept was converted into a garage for cars, with a repair workshop and apartments for the chauffeur-mechanics. Although the facades of the new mansion were inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles and the apartments paneled with eighteenth-century wood wainscoting, Sergent’s design satisfied the requirements of private dwellings in the second half of the nineteenth century by separating public and private life and domestic service.

The horizontal and vertical organization of the building allowed for maximum efficiency, with a kitchen in the basement, pantry on the upper floor, linen room and cloakrooms in the attic. An elevator in the service staircase made it easier to move throughout the building.

White and blue tiling in Moïse de Camondo’s Bathroom
© Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

The beautiful decoration of the house conceals its internal workings and modern conveniences: the heating batteries, the columns for the vacuum cleaning and warm air systems, the pipes and electric cables. The coal required for heating and cooking and the blocks of ice for the ice box were delivered, but all the other energy sources were supplied by network: water, gas and telephone by the Ville de Paris or the state; electricity and compressed air by the Compagnie Parisienne d’Électricité and the Compagnie Parisienne de l’Air Comprimé. The energy required for the servants’ bells and telephone was provided on site by sets of Leclanché batteries, mounted as a set in the basement cupboards. Some of the mansion’s original installations are still in place today.

Spaces that were previously inaccessible have been restored in recent years, as a result of which two Bathrooms, the Kitchen and adjacent rooms and the Pantry have been opened to visitors. Restoration of the outbuildings has begun with the garage and is scheduled to continue in the coming years.

Les Arts Décoratifs, 107, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
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